We woke up to a fierce wind that blew all day and into the evening. Awed by 50 mile-per-hour gusts, my husband, children and I hunkered down in our three-room cabin. We watched the pendant light sway, felt the thin walls shake and listened to the roar.
We were spending the week in Inverness, a tiny town on Cape Breton Island, which lies at the northern tip of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Cape Breton’s coast juts into the rugged Atlantic in the east, but meanders up the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the west. Here the water is mild and surprisingly warm, and the sunsets are spectacular.
The bad weather kept us inside all day. At first the enforced confinement felt like a lazy reprieve from days packed with hiking in thick pine forests, swimming in welcoming coves and exploring rolling countryside. This morning, all four of us piled into a double bed and snuggled under the hand sewn quilt. We eventually roused ourselves to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, while excitedly tracking the storm on the Weather Channel. To pass the time, we made up riddles. Mine: “What’s shiny as gold, long as ribbons, pretty as a flower?” It stumped the kids, but my husband David knew it was our daughter’s blond hair that cascades to her waist. Julia, age 8, and Dylan, age 13, thought up riddles, too, with varying success.
We spent hours in front of the big picture window observing nature’s power. The wind lashed tall dune grasses, beat the shorter blades on the lawn, carved indentations into the thick bushes and sailed seagulls across the clouded skies.
Around 4:00 p.m., the children ventured out to the car, laughing and shouting as they were blown about. I was concerned about flying objects. But the wind came up from the gulf, we were close to the edge of the bluff, so there was almost nothing in the wind’s path. Bored of being inside and curious about the storm, we stepped outside. The four of us stomped deliberately into the path of the racing wind. We had to stand with legs wide apart to keep upright. At times a blast of air would knock us a step back.
The gale-force winds churned up the water, producing whitecaps for hundreds of yards in what would normally be flat waters. At the shore’s edge, thick sea foam piled up on the sand. Small chunks of bubbling foam would fly 30 feet up the earth wall, leap over the rim of the bluff and land on our cabin. It was amazing. We toughed it out on the bluff for a half hour, our jackets billowing like sails, the cloth of our shorts smashed against our thighs, our hair flying crazily in all directions.
We returned to the cabin for an early dinner. After fueling up on coq au vin cooked in the small, functional kitchen, we eagerly headed out to explore the effects of the storm on the beach. As we pushed open the door, we saw that the sun had set, leaving a pink glow across the wide horizon. There was fortunately, plenty of light left in the sky when we scrambled down the steep dunes, which viciously spat sand at our exposed legs.
Safely down, we took in the vision of the beach. It glowed silvery wet in the twilight. A thick, gelatinous swath of sea foam gurgled at the edge of the water. It wobbled and shook in the heavy wind. Julia sunk into the foamy mud-sand and cried out in surprise at the goo that stuck to her feet. We all laughed at her and the wonder of the experience. The wind sang in our ears, the bay thrashed, we felt elated. We walked along the edge of a dune, avoiding the foamy mud. Julia went into the shallows to rinse off her feet. But rinsing became splashing as waves caught her clothes. She ran back with a huge smile to show us. Dylan quickly stripped off his jacket and T-shirt and scampered into the waves full force. We watched our children’s dark silhouettes frolicking in the luminescent sea. Inspired, I took off my shoes and joined them, dancing into the surprisingly warm water. We hooted for joy. The sea embraced us with its spray.
After about 15 minutes, we decided it was getting too dark to remain. The children regretfully left the wild water. We climbed carefully over the wet dunes and returned to the grassy bluff. We paused to catch our breath and Dylan summed up what we all felt: “That was exhilarating".